Euthanasia in Victoria: How the State’s Assisted Dying Laws will Work
Victoria’s Upper House has passed legislation to introduce historic laws to allow doctor-assisted dying.
The bill will return to the Lower House next week for ratification before becoming law.
So, once in place, how is it going to work?
Who is Eligible?
Voluntary assisted dying will only be available to Victorians who are over the age of 18 and are capable of making decisions.
They must be suffering from an incurable illness, which causes intolerable suffering, and be expected to live for less than six months.
Mental illness and disability alone are not grounds for access to assisted dying, but people who meet the criteria and also have a mental illness or disability will not be denied access.
During debate on the issue, MPs expressed concern about who would be considered Victorian, arguing people seeking a doctor-assisted death could move to the state.
How will it Work?
Two doctors will have to sign off on the process, assessing whether the patient is eligible.
A doctor is not allowed to initiate discussion or suggest voluntary assisted dying to a patient.
A patient requesting a medically assisted death will have to make two formal requests as well as a written statement.
The doctor will prescribe the substance, which will be dispensed by a pharmacist.
If they are able, the patient will administer the lethal substance themselves, but if they are not, a doctor will be able to assist.
The patient would have to nominate a contact person to return any unused substance to the pharmacist.
Doctors will have the right to refuse to provide information, prescribe or administer an assisted-dying substance if they are conscientious objectors.
What Kind of Drug will be Used?
That is not spelled out in the legislation.
It says the controlled substance, poison or drug of dependence would be specified by the prescribing doctor.
But the euthanasia drug Nembutal, which is used to euthanase pets, is prohibited for use on humans by federal laws.
The voluntary assisted dying substance will have to be stored in a locked box.
When will Assisted Dying be Available?
A parliamentary report which was the basis for the assisted dying bill said clinicians would need time to prepare before the laws came into effect.
It called for an 18-month gap between the bill being passed into law and assisted dying becoming available.
How Many People Would Access it?
It is estimated about 150 people a year in Victoria would ask for a doctor-assisted death.
That is based on numbers in the US state of Oregon, where assisted dying has been legal for 20 years.